Our third iteration of the XFL is having a little trouble, and it’s not the play on the field. The league’s changes to the extra point, kickoffs and review process are interesting, even if the NFL will never implement any of them. The overall performances have been solid and the football has been fun to watch. There’s just one problem. Not a lot of people are watching.
While the USFL debuted strong last season, the XFL can’t say the same. Even with better football and the league kicking off this close to the NFL season’s end, ratings are down from the 2020 version that was killed by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The league lost half of its viewers in Week 2 and the four games broadcast averaged just 643,000 viewers.
The best performer? Sunday’s San Antonio Brahmas vs Orlando Guardians match up which brought in 781,000 viewers. I will say that, while they can claim attendance isn’t great, the stadiums look a lot fuller than the USFL’s did a season ago. According to Pro Football Talk the games average around 12,712 fans per contest, which is probably a solid FCS stadium turnout.
All the league can do is power through and put a quality product on the field. And, maybe more importantly, retain our attention with solid lines, odds and totals to keep us interested even if we’re not emotionally invested in the teams. That’s the part that any new league will be lacking from its inception.
XFL WEEK 2 POWER RANKINGS
1. HOUSTON ROUGHNECKS (2-0)
As the season began, the Roughnecks looked like one of the weaker offensive rosters in the league. Turns out, you don’t need a great offensive roster when Wade Phillips is your head coach and puts his signature defense on the field. Watching this team play, the only thing keeping Phillips from getting back into the NFL as a defensive coordinator is his age.
2. ST. LOUIS BATTLEHAWKS (2-0)
The Battlehawks have owned the fourth quarter of their two games and boast, what looks like, the best quarterback in the league in AJ McCarron. Their defense is good enough to make it to the end, so this could very well be our Top Two pretty much the whole way.
3. WASHINGTON DC DEFENDERS (2-0)
While they sit at 2-0, the Defenders don’t look particularly strong and could easily drop the rest of their games. Well, the games they don’t play against the Guardians.
4. SAN ANTONIO BRAHMAS (1-1)
Did the Brahams break out last week or were they just facing off against the worst team in the league? They’ll get the chance to show us Sunday when they square off against the Roughnecks.
5. ARLINGTON RENEGADES (1-1)
The Renegades rode an opportunistic defense to their victory their opening week, but didn’t find the same luck in Week 2 against Houston. They should be able to get over .500 Sunday, but need to find more consistency on the offensive side of the ball.
6. SEATTLE SEA DRAGONS (0-2)
The Sea Dragons have been a hard luck team that’s stumbled at the end of games. They could turn it around, but I don’t see this as anything better than a .500 squad.
7. LAS VEGAS VIPERS (0-2)
Vegas has disappointed me this season. I had high hopes for this squad, thanks mostly to the roster’s experience on offense, but it’s not paid off. Turnovers have killed them and last week’s lackluster performance doesn’t portend well. Still, I think they can turn it around and go on a run here, starting Saturday against Seattle.
8. ORLANDO GUARDIANS (0-2)
While I had high hopes for the Vipers, I can’t say the same about the Guardians. Someone has to be the worst team in the XFL, this league’s Michigan Panthers if you will, and Orlando has stepped up, took a few practice cuts and stuck its head right into the strike zone.
SEATTLE SEA DRAGONS AT LAS VEGAS VIPERS (+3, O/U: 38)
The Sea Dragons couldn’t hold on in the final stanza against the St. Louis Battlehawks, falling 20-18. Seattle’s Ben DiNucci finished 19 of 29 for 196 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the loss. Morgan Ellison rushed 10 times for 50 yards. Jahcour Pearson hauled in four passes for 78 yards and a score. Emmanuel Smith led the team with 10 tackles, Antoine Brooks recorded nine.
After an early touchdown drive, Vegas saw its offense bog down as they lost 18-6 to the DC Defenders last Saturday. Former Green Bay Packer Brett Hundley went 11 of 18 for 98 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions for the Vipers. He added 5 tushes for 24 yards. Jawaun Johnson led Las Vegas with seven tackles. Maximillian Roberts recorded two sacks and a forced fumble.
Someone is going to pick up their first win of the season in this one. I’ve been disappointed in Vegas, considering the roster they’re putting on the field. I think the dam breaks in this one. Vipers 20, Sea Dragons 15
ST. LOUIS BATTLEHAWKS AT WASHINGTON DC DEFENDERS (-2, O/U: 37)
After a contest of losers to open the week’s action, we get a battle of unbeatens to start our Sunday XFL triple header. Last Thursday, the Battlehawks unleashed a nine point fourth quarter to hold of the Seattle Sea Dragons, 20-18. Former Cincinnati Bengal AJ McCarron finished 22 of 36 for 184 yards and a touchdown in the victory. He was sacked three times. He led the B-Hawks (we’re going to try that condensed name out) with 41 yards and a TD on the ground. Hakeem Butler caught four passes for 61 yards and a score. Willie Harvey led St. Louis with seven tackles. LaCale London recorded three tackles and forced two fumbles.
The Defenders scored two rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take down the Las Vegas Vipers 18-6 last Saturday. Jordan Ta’amu had another lackluster performance under center, finishing 11 of 23 for 93 yards, no touchdowns and no picks. He was sacked twice, but did rush 12 times for 68 yards. Abram Smith had 11 carries for 71 yards and a score. Reggie Northrup ended his afternoon with five tackles and a sack.
In two games, St. Louis has found a way to win while DC has, somehow, found a way not to lose. I think the B-Hawks (See? It works) keep their streak going and end Washington’s. Battlehawks 22-Defenders 12
ORLANDO GUARDIANS AT ARLINGTON RENEGADES (-8.5, O/U: 36)
Orlando barley showed up to their own home stadium last Sunday, falling 30-12 to the San Antonio Brahmas. Paxton Lynch and Deondre Francois split time at quarterback for the Guardians and neither guy was good. Lynch ended his day 9 of 19 for 79 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He was sacked twice. Francios was 6 of 13 for 8 yards and a TD. Jah-Maine Martin rushed nine times for 46 yards. Javnita Payton had three receptions for 47 yards. Mike Lee had eight tackles, two for a loss and a sack.
The Renegades exploded for 14 points in the second quarter, but never showed up on the scoreboard again, losing 23-14 to the Houston Roughnecks last Sunday. Drew Pitt was 15 of 29 for 120 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the loss. He was sacked five times. Jamal Carter and Donald Payne finished with seven tackles apiece.
Arlington doesn’t look good, but the Guardians appear to be the worst team in the league two weeks in. I like the Renegades, but don’t care for the spread. Renegades 18, Guardians 9
SAN ANTONIO BRAHMAS AT HOUSTON ROUGHNECKS (-4, O/U: 35.5)
San Antonio used a third quarter surge to crush the Orlando Guardians 30-12 last Sunday. Jack Coan ended his night 16 of 24 for 165 yards and three touchdowns. He was sacked twice and rushed for 23 yards. Alize Mack had four catches for 48 yards and a TD. Delontae Scott recorded seven tackles, two for a loss and a sack.
The Roughnecks again looked like the best team in the XFL, downing the Arlington Roughriders 23-14 last week. Brandon Silvers led the way, going 14 of 28 for 173 yards and two touchdowns with no picks. He was sacked once. Cole McDonald rushed seven times for 39 yards. Ben Putman caught four passes for 65 yards. Tavante Beckett, Tim Ward, William Likely and Trent Harris all had five tackles apiece. Ward added a sack and Harris had half a sack and two tackles for a loss.
San Antonio is coming off a good week, but I see no reason to pick against Houston just yet. Wade Phillips has already shown he’s the best coach in the XFL and his defense looks like the units he got to Super Bowls with the Los Angeles Rams and Denver Broncos. Roughnecks 26, Brahmas 16
Straight up: 2-2
Against the spread: 1-3
Straight up: 4-4
Against the spread: 3-5